Old Mercer Main Campus

Early in 2022, the King Center for Southern Studies reached out to Bigman Geophysical about a large scale ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scan of Mercer University’s original campus in Penfield, Georgia. During the late summer and early fall of 2022, Bigman Geophysical carried out a scan of about 7 acres that includes the current Penfield Baptist Church. The current typography of the area is grass fields with the church building in the northeast section of the property.

Earlier photographs, both aerial and Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers, showed the presence of the Ciceronian Literary Society house (see Figure 8, which is also structure 3 in Figure 9), but we no longer knew its exact location on the landscape. Through the scan, we know where the foundation is (see front page below, as well as Figure 7, 10, and structure outline in Figure 9). We also knew from documentation that the Phi Delta Literary Society had a house built directly opposite the Ciceronian house, the remnants of that building no longer existed by the time known photographs of the structures documented in Penfield. The outline of that structure appears on the front page below and Figure 10.

As outlined in the report, the next phase would involve sampling excavations around known structures to detail more about the life of students but also enslaved people who worked in and around the structures. In the case of the literary societies, we will try to understand how the buildings functioned in the life of the institution.